25 June 2016

USA: International ships sail to Hawaii for Rim of the Pacific

From U.S. Third Fleet Public Affairs

The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) performs flight operations while en route to exercise Rim of the Pacific 2016, June 22. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Demetrius Kennon) >>

SAN DIEGO - Four multinational groups have set sail toward Hawaii in support of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise commencing on June 30. Participating in Group Sail, 10 ships departed from San Diego, while 12 ships met in the western Pacific Ocean.

USS America (LHA 6) departed San Diego on June 21, leading Canadian ship HMCS Vancouver, Chilean ship CNS Cochrane, USS San Diego (LPD 22), and USS Howard (DDG 83).

USS Princeton (CG 59) departed San Diego on June 22 along with Canadian ship HMCS Calgary, USCG Stratton, and USS Pinckney (DDG 91). USS Coronado (LCS 4) departed San Diego on June 23.

USA: USS Ashland Arrives in Singapore

USS Ashland (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Villegas, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Public Affairs

SINGAPORE (NNS) -- Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) arrived in Singapore after completing several phases in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) series, June 24.

The port visit to Singapore is a chance for Sailors and Marines to enjoy the culture and history of Singapore and strengthen relations with the Singapore community. 

For the Ashland crew and embarked Marines, the CARAT series included bilateral and multilateral engagements with partner nations -- including, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand -- in an effort to enhance relationships, increase interoperability, and peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. 

USA: DoD Holds Trilateral Discussion on North Korean Missile Launch

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2016 — U.S., Japanese and South Korean defense officials held a videoconference today to discuss the recent North Korean missile launches, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a readout of the call.

Kelly Magsamen, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs; Yoo Jeh-seung, South Korea’s deputy defense minister for policy; and Satoshi Maeda, Japan’s director general for defense policy, co-chaired the trilateral interagency video conference, Cook said.

USA: Assistant Secretary Frank A. Rose to Travel to Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China

Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank A. Rose will travel to Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China, from June 27 to July 7, for the third plenary meeting of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV), and for discussions on space security, strategic stability, arms control, and other bilateral and multilateral issues.

From June 28–30, Assistant Secretary Rose will travel to Tokyo, Japan, to co-chair the third IPNDV plenary meeting featuring the participation of over 25 countries. The IPNDV channels expertise from both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states to address the complex challenges involved in the verification of nuclear disarmament agreements.

On July 1, he will participate in two IPNDV-related public events in Tokyo: a press event in the morning at the Japan National Press Club, and a panel event in the afternoon at the University of Tokyo.

From July 2–5, Assistant Secretary Rose will be in Seoul, Republic of Korea, where he will meet with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the Blue House to discuss a range of strategic issues.

Assistant Secretary Rose will be in Beijing, China, from July 5–7, for discussions on mutual strategic interests with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the China National Space Administration.

USA: Under Secretary Thomas Shannon to Travel to Kuwait City, New Delhi and Kolkata

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon will travel to Kuwait City, Kuwait on June 26. While there, he will meet with Kuwaiti government officials to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues. He will also meet with UN officials and others involved in the ongoing Yemeni peace talks to underscore U.S. support for those talks.

Under Secretary Shannon will then travel to New Delhi and Kolkata, India, June 28–July 1, where he will meet with Indian government officials and U.S. Mission India staff. He will also meet with members of civil society, including representatives of various religious communities.

While in New Delhi, the Under Secretary will meet with government leaders to discuss a range of bilateral and global issues in support of joint U.S.-India efforts to sustain the rules-based global order. He will visit the Indian Foreign Service Institute to deliver remarks and meet with Indian diplomats.

In Kolkata, Under Secretary Shannon will meet with government officials and members of the U.S. Consulate General. He will also chair a roundtable discussion with journalists at the American Center and visit several local cultural sites.

News Report: How Iran’s Membership in SCO May Work in Interest of Several Key Players

Iran's bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is under consideration at the summit of the organization in Tashkent according to Russian assistant to the president Yury Ushakov. An expert on the study of Eurasia, Hamidreza Azizi told Sputnik in that Iran’s priorities are changing and it may prefer to join the EAEC instead.

Some time ago it was difficult to imagine that Tehran would refuse to join the SCO. But times are changing and today in the political, economic, scientific and expert circles of Iran there is a vast discussion going on regarding Iran’s membership in the SCO.

“The question of Iran's membership in the SCO is nothing new. It was most actively discussed in the country during the last convocation of the government in Iran (2013). However, during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani situation has changed somewhat,” Azizi told Sputnik.

He further said, “At this moment, we need to understand why today key SCO members Russia and China have expressed interest in Iran joining the organization. Since 2008, a serious barrier for Iran’s entry into the SCO was the sanctions. The main requirement for SCO member states was that the potential candidate for membership should not be under international sanctions.”

News Report: Why China Blocked India’s Entry To Nuclear Suppliers Group

China intentionally blocked India’s membership to the 48-member Nuclear Group for geopolitical reasons.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — China's objection to India's NSG membership has more geopolitical connotations than the non-NPT issue.

The Indian and Chinese rivalry is known in South Asia and both do not let opportunities go to waste to prove their influence. China is also a close friend of India's arch rival Pakistan.

Certainly, by blocking India's NSG bid China wants to hamper their rise.

China wants to hinder India's uranium supply and also create hurdles to the access the latest nuclear technology by blocking India's membership. India's non-inclusion in the NSG will ultimately hamper the export of nuclear components by India. By opposing India, China has also snubbed the US who fully supported India's NSG membership bid. Becoming a member of the NSG, a block that governs civilian nuclear trade worldwide, would have granted India global acceptance as a legitimate nuclear power which China does not want.

News Report: 7 Indonesian Sailors Kidnapped at Sea

Seven Indonesian sailors have been abducted at sea in the southern Philippines, the government in Jakarta said Friday, the latest in a recent string of abductions in the waters between the two countries.

Indonesian officials said 13 sailors were on a tugboat that had been carrying a coal barge in the Sulu Sea on Monday when it was hijacked by armed groups.

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said the government will do "everything possible to free these hostages."   He added, "the safety of these seven Indonesian citizens is our priority."

Officials in Jakarta said they could not confirm whether a ransom demand had been made, or whether the captors were members of the southern Philippine-based militant group Abu Sayyaf.

Abu Sayyaf began as an insurgent group calling for a separate Muslim state, receiving seed money from al-Qaida in the 1990s.

The group has since resorted to kidnapping foreign tourists and holding them for ransom as authorities intensified operations against terror groups following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

Abu Sayyaf released 10 Indonesian sailors last month who had been held captive since March.

The group beheaded Canadian national John Ridsel last month after a $6.5 million ransom for him was not received.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Afghanistan, Pakistan Presidents to Meet

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed Friday to meet with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain in Tashkent.

The meeting was confirmed by the deputy spokesman to the president of Afghanistan, Shah Hussain Murtazawi.

The two presidents were to meet after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tashkent.

Previously, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani met the adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, on the sidelines of the SCO Summit.

Based on a joint press release, both sides agreed to develop a high level mechanism for consultation and coordination on various important issues relating to bilateral relations and cooperation. The issues include security and movement of people and vehicles between the two countries. The proposed mechanism will be co-chaired by two officials and will include the participation of the countries' national security advisers. It will also have a joint technical working group to deal with the concerns of both countries.

The main purpose of the working group would be not only to address and resolve issues of concern to both sides but also to prevent the recurrence of violent incidents like those that occurred recently in Torkham.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.

News Story: NKorea test shows need for expanded missile defense - Pentagon chief

US SecDef: Ashton Carter
The United States will continue to expand its defense systems to protect South Korea and regional allies from North Korean missiles, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said Wednesday.

Carter spoke to reporters hours after Pyongyang tested two medium-range Musudan missiles, one of which flew 400 kilometers (250 miles) into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Experts say the apparent success marked a significant step forward for a weapons program that ultimately aspires to develop a proven nuclear strike capability against the US mainland.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily